If you’re in Taipei for a few days, I recommend taking a trip to Jinguashi, an old gold-mining town about an hour north of Taipei. During the Japanese era, a gold rush occurred in this area creating small towns to support the operations. These villages were later abandoned when all the gold had been extracted.


Jinguashi is home to the gold ecological park. The museum is interesting, you get to learn about worker’s conditions and have the opportunity to touch a 220kg brick of gold (worth about $10 million US dollars). Admission is free-another notable point, although you can arrange some tours through the tunnels that cost a small fee.

I particularly enjoyed walking around the area and exploring the beautiful mountains in the area. There are lots of small hikes and the scenery is stunning. You can easily walk or catch a bus to the nearby cities of Jiufen and catch other stunning views of Taipei and the ocean. If you want to get out of the crowds of Taipei for a day I would definitely recommend the trip!

The view of Jinguashi from a short hike to a Shinto temple

Taipei 101

This past weekend, I decided I was overdue for a trip to the capital. So, I packed my backpack and found a hostel close to the metro where I could fulfill all my tourist-y desires in Taipei. And luckily, I just missed Typhoon Matmo and had a pleasant weekend with beautiful clear skies.

One favorite that you can’t miss while in Taiwan is the National Palace Museum. Just looking at the museum is breathtaking.


The museum is full of art and calligraphy by famous Japanese and Chinese artists who were inspired by Taiwan’s geographical features and locals. The third floor features intricate carvings in items as small as a walnut shell. Jadeite is also featured including the famous cabbage piece.

When my new hostel friends showed me their jade cabbage key-chains, I thought Taiwan had a bizarre vegetable trend; but actually, this jadeite piece is one of the most important and well known works of art in Taiwan. Seeing the display in person allowed me to appreciate the extreme intricacies of the piece; from the ruffles of the leaves to the insects carved into the top. The piece was made for a wedding gift for one of the emperors during the Qing dynasty and the grasshoppers on the top represent the emperor’s wish to have children. The museum insists that the jadeite has many flaws; however, the artist hid them within this piece making it even more remarkable.

If you set foot in Taipei, you also can’t help but see Taipei 101 which was the tallest building in the world until 2004. In 2011, it was awarded the LEED Platinum Certificate making it the tallest green building in the world. And it also apparently has the world’s fastest elevators.


Going to the top of Taipei 101 provided some fantastic views that you won’t want to miss. There’s an observatory deck up top where you can also take a stroll outside. However, it’s a bit pricey and the lines to the top take forever. I waited an hour to go up and another hour to go down. If you’re trying to save some time and money, I was later clued in by some guys in my hostel that you can go to the 35th floor if you purchase a Starbucks coffee drink. Although not quite as high as 89, they assured me that the 35th floor is higher than the other buildings around and offers a great view.

View of the surrounding landscape from the top of Taipei 101

I also had the opportunity to hike up Xiangshan, or Elephant Mountain to watch the sunset on Taipei 101. The hike is a bit tiring, as its 500 meters straight up a bunch of stairs, but the view is spectacular and its a pretty short distance. Unfortunately, many other people have the same idea and the mountain is covered with other photographers and tourists so try and get there early!


White People Problems: Asia Edition

Some of my reoccurring problems while living in Taiwan seem to be…


It probably doesn’t help that I trip over my own feet.

Size problems

Being tall, everything seems just a bit too small.

What people think Texas is like: 

Attempting to understand Chinese: 


Personal Space? 

When I See Other White People: 

Hey!!!! Be my best friend???

Requests for Pictures With Kids: 


Language Differences: 


So killer’s can’t litter?

Attempting to cross the road in this: 

And finally…

No Netflix means no one to discuss the latest Orange Is The New Black with: 





What’s There To Lose?

It’s been almost a month since I left Texas for Taiwan and started working with the Siraya people to help them in their mission of achieving national recognition. However, one question kept bugging me: Why is the Taiwanese government so resistant to the idea of recognizing the Siraya or Pingpu people? It means a big deal to the tribe, but why does the government have to lose? They recognize certain other tribes, so why pick and choose?

Because of the language barrier, it took awhile before I got a clear answer to this question. I eventually spoke to Edgar, a local Sirayan activist, who helped shed some light on the situation.

The reason the government has given for not recognizing the Sirayan people is that the Sirayans do not speak their own language anymore and that they are no longer ‘pure’ Sirayans because of intermarriages. However, Edgar points out that both the Hakka and Amis (among other officially recognized tribes) face similar issues with language and intermarriages. Furthermore, the government has ignored the Sirayan’s efforts and successes in language and cultural revitalization and preservation. So what other motivations does the government have for not investigating the Sirayan’s claims further?

The Sirayans think the situation is a bit more complex; however, it comes down to two main components: money and politics (tell me something new).

Some of the other officially recognized tribes in Taiwan do not wish for the Sirayans to gain recognition. Edgar points to the Amis, who hold many government positions and have strong political power. The Sirayan and other Pingpu groups are big tribes. (In the Tainan area alone over 15,000 people registered as Siraya). And why does this matter? Bigger tribes get more money. The government currently has a budget for indigenous people, and Siraya recognition threatens the percentage of funding other groups receive.

Furthermore, a big tribe could potentially help strengthen Taiwanese identity: an issue for the current political party, the Kuo Ming Tang (KMT) which leans more towards China. According to Dr. Sim Kiantek, about 95% of Taiwanese carry Aboriginal blood, threatening China’s claim that most Taiwanese are Han.

Either way, the Sirayan people are working hard to prove that they are indigenous and maintain their culture and language. Currently, some of the local Siraya volunteers have created a YouTube video with footage of the tribe and an original song to encourage people to sign the petition we’ve created.


Duck, Duck, Goose

It would appear that I have an unlikely neighbor. Living in the group of houses on my block is a friendly pet goose. After getting out of work in the evenings I often see this guy walking around in the parking lot with his owner.

His owner has informed us that the goose walks down the stairs but he can’t get back up them so she accompanies him on his daily excursions. Apparently he doesn’t make good use of his wings either. We imagine that he lives in the bathtub swimming around all day. And Uma, the woman I work with, used to be afraid of geese because of their big beaks. However, she’s changed her mind and thinks they’re a rather cute pet.

Bucket List

I wrote my bucket list after having completed my gap year and continue to add to it. Here’s what it currently looks like:

  1. Learn Chinese
  2. Go to the tomato throwing festival in Spain
  3. Rock climbing
  4. Complete a multi-pitch
  5. Skydiving
  6. Swim with dolphins
  7. Shark cage
  8. Go to the Olympics
  9. Learn Spanish/French
  10. Scuba dive/snorkel on the Great Barrier Reef
  11. Own a bar/restaurant/business
  12. Intern/work in DC
  13. Go to all continents
  14. Participate in a sailing trip
  15. Learn to ski
  16. Whale watching
  17. See an active volcano
  18. Morocco
  19. Grad school
  20. See the 7 natural wonders of the world
  21. See the 7 wonders of the world (built by man)
  22. Trans-Siberian Railway
  23. Zip-lining in Costa Rica
  24. Invest in something
  25. Publish something
  26. Canoe trip
  27. Hitchhike
  28. Ride a camel
  29. Go on a safari
  30. Hike to see gorillas in Africa
  31. Volunteer on the Galapagos Islands
  32. Cuba
  33. Full moon party in Thailand
  34. Meet Obama
  35. Participate in Holi in India
  36. Live in at least 5 countries
  37. Rio Carnival
  38. Ride an elephant
  39. Go hunting
  40. Stand behind a waterfall
  41. Gamble in Vegas
  42. Do the tree walk in Perth
  43. Whitsunday Islands
  44. Fraser Island
  45. Be in the live audience of a TV show
  46. See Florence + The Machine
  47. Death Valley
  48. Archeological dig in Israel
  49. Zhangjiajie Stone Forest, China
  50. Zhejiang Province
  51. Huangshan Mountain
  52. Peace Corps
  53. Scuba dive
  54. Hike the Appalachian Trail
  55. Redwoods
  56. Great Bear Rainforest
  57. Iceland
  58. See the Northern lights
  59. Hot yoga in India
  60. Ride in a hot air balloon
  61. Taj Mahal
  62. Montenegro

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